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THE SERVANT OF GOD MATT TALBOT
1856-1925

"How can you be lonely with Christ in the Tabernacle?"

Two Sundays ago I made reference to the Servant of God Matt Talbot in my homily. Who was Matt Talbot? He was an Irish laborer who lived in Dublin and led a hidden life of extraordinary prayer and penance for over forty years. His story would have remained unknown to the world except for the fact that he dropped dead on a Dublin street and the hospital workers discovered upon stripping him that this man was wrapped in penitential chains like an ascetic from a bygone era of the Church.

Matt had been born in the decade after the Great Famine (1845-48) had devastated Ireland. He was one of 12 (8 boys and 4 girls). Sent out work as a messenger boy for a wine merchant at the age of 12 Matt began to tipple from the wine-stock and there began his downfall. By the time he was only 17 he was a full-blown alcoholic. 

A “functional” alcoholic apprenticed to a bricklayer, he lived to drink. He used his spare-time and all his wages to lose himself in drunkenness.

Evenings and weekends he could be found at his favorite pub, drinking, talking, treating his companions. His meager wages disappeared in this fashion. He took to depositing his paycheck with the bartender and then drinking until it was exhausted. (“Matt Talbot”, Irish Saints, by Robert Reilly, A. D. 1964)

At the age of 28, after a week-long bender, he finally hit the proverbial “rock-bottom”. Encouraged by his long-suffering mother, he agreed to take the "Pledge" to abstain from alcohol for three months, then for six months, and finally "for life."

In an effort to gain the spiritual strength to break free of alcohol-addiction he began to attend daily Mass before work and then make a visit to church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. His sobriety was lasting.

He who had formerly lived to drink, now lived to pray and do penance.

At 4 A.M. Matt would dress and then pray for an hour before going to church. Until the church doors opened, he would kneel on the stone steps. Policemen making their early morning rounds became used to seeing the silent figure lost in prayer. At 5:30 he entered the church, made the Stations of the Cross, and attended the 6:15 Mass at which he received Holy Communion. He used no missal but followed the Mass closely, praying all the while, always kneeling upright in his pew.

Once, when a friend was bemoaning her loneliness, he countered with a gentle rebuke: “Lonely? How can you be lonely with Christ in the Tabernacle.”

Once, when a friend was bemoaning her loneliness, he countered with a gentle rebuke: “Lonely? How can you be lonely with Christ in the Tabernacle.”

I think Matt Talbot was speaking here out of his own knowledge of acquaintance, according to the grace that was given to him. It is true: How can a Christian ever be lonely when he has Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? Remembering this and applying it will help us to face the burden of loneliness which everyone of us eventually has to face in life, especially as we go on in years. To turn our loneliness into solitude and our solitude into the prayer of friendship with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, this is the thing. O Lord, increase our eucharistic faith!

Fr. Higgins

About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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"If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter."
- St. Therese of Lisieux (+1897)

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